Introduction: As we resume Exodus, we celebrate Moses’ return to Egypt in chapter 5 to challenge Pharaoh to bow the knee to the Lord. Yet, we must not forget Moses’ weakness. Contrary to the world’s glorification of its rulers, God is never going to use Moses in such a way as to diminish His own glory in order to exalt his mere human instrument. No! As Moses himself says (being “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth,” Numbers 12:3): It was “the Lord’s own arm” which worked salvation for His people! To Him be the glory alone, as in this week’s notes we contemplate the weakness of even the greatest of God’s human tools, compared to the strength of His own arm!
Monday: read Exodus 4:24-26 and Numbers 12:1-3. It would be tempting for us to overlook the heartbreaking disagreement over circumcision between Moses and his wife in Exodus 4:24-26. But as Moses walks into Egypt in Ex. 5 to confront Pharaoh – without his family – we must seek to understand the burden which Moses bore in his family life. And what is most obvious about this burden? It is this: circumcision is not only neglected by Moses, it is apparently despised by his wife. Despite glosses in the Jewish Targums (Old Testament attempts to rehabilitate Moses’ life from all sin, such as in this case, by putting words of joy into the mouth of Moses’ wife), the language used is hostile in Exodus 4: “You are a husband of blood to me” (that is), “You have cost me the blood of my son in order to save your life from the Lord.” This level of angry disagreement may explain why we hear so little about Moses’ wife until she is returned to Moses after the plagues and the Exodus out of Egypt in chapter 18.
Meditate and Pray: How hard it must have been for Moses to serve the Lord in the context of his own family. Yet, domestic trials, no matter how severe, are no excuse for letting our own commitment to God’s service slide. Did not Hannah continue in prayer and worship to the Lord at the Tabernacle even though her rival tormented her there in 1 Samuel 1:6-10? Did not David continue “dancing before the Lord” even though his wife Michal despised him for it (2 Samuel 6:16)? “Lord, give us joy in your house, and in the service of you, even if mother, father and every other loved one forsake us (Psalm 27:10). Amen.”
Tuesday: read Exodus 4:24-26 and Numbers 12:1-3. One commentary well sums up the humiliating difficulties of Moses’ family life, especially in terms of the naming of his eldest son (Ex. 3:21-22) and the implied weak spiritual heritage given to Zipporah’s and Moses’ offspring:
Moses’ union with Zipporah seems to have been an ill-assorted or at least an unprosperous one. In the tender hour when their firstborn was to be named, the bitter sense of loneliness had continued to be nearer to the heart of Moses than the glad new consciousness of paternity, and he said (in naming his first son), “I am a stranger in a strange land.” … The home life of Moses had not made him forget that he was an exile.
What about these family relations years later in Ex. 4:24-26ff? The commentator continues:
Even the removal of imminent death from her husband could not hush these selfish complaints of Zipporah … It is Miriam the sister of Moses, not Zipporah the wife, who gives lyrical and passionate voice to his triumph (Ex. 15:20-21) and is mourned by the nation when she dies. Both what we read of Zipporah and what we do not read goes far to explain the insignificance of their children in history and the more startling fact that the grandson of Moses became the instrument of the Danites in their false worship in Judges 18:30.
Meditate and Pray: What do you think of today’s summation of Moses’ family life – perhaps too severe, or too hard on Zipporah, and not hard enough on Moses as the leader of his household? Remember, it is his weakness and cowardice that provokes God’s wrath in places like Ex. 4:13-14. We never read of God’s wrath directed towards Zipporah! But no matter how we understand Moses and Zipporah, may these sobering questions drive us to our knees as parents and grandparents, with a healthy fear of what the next generation will become if left to themselves and to our parental sin!
“Lord, help us to be faithful to the following generations of your covenant children, teaching them your ways with the prayerful, confident hope that they will not depart from them (Psalm 78:1-4). Amen.”
Wednesday: read Exodus 4:24-26 and Numbers 12:1-3. What do you think of Moses’ honesty in revealing his own sinful tendencies, and the sinful tensions within his own family in the very books ascribed to his pen? Were these sad events of Moses’ family and marriage not true, they would never have been recorded unless the goal were to overthrow Moses’ place in the sacred history. On the other hand, any carnal effort to exalt Moses (so common in the ancient world) would result in a perfect portrait of Israel’s leader! All his defects would be smoothed over, creating a self-righteous (though non-historical) Bible picture of Israel’s leader! No – these verses ring true as history, simply because the story of God with His people is one of the redemption of sinners, as hymn 486 in our Trinity hymnals well expresses it:
|God, be merciful to me,
On Thy grace I rest my plea;
Plenteous in compassion Thou,
Blot out my transgressions now;
Wash me, make me pure within,
Cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.
My transgressions I confess,
|I am evil, born in sin;
Thou desirest truth within.
Thou alone my Savior art,
Teach Thy wisdom to my heart;
Make me pure, Thy grace bestow,
Wash me whiter than the snow.
Broken, humbled to the dust
Thursday: read Exodus 4:27-31 and Psalm 133. After all the struggles with family disunity; near-death experiences, and his own fear of obeying God’s call, how refreshing must have been the fellowship which Moses enjoyed with older brother Aaron, after years of exile! No one can excuse Moses for having killed the Egyptian forty years earlier, nor object at the forty years of isolation which that impetuous deed produced. But now, led by his elder brother, who will be the first High Priest of Israel, Aaron, Moses is restored and participates in worship with all God’s people, as they bow before the good news of coming redemption in Ex. 4:31. Can there be a better picture of our redemption and restoration at the hands of our “Aaron,” the High Priest of our confession, Jesus Christ?
Meditate and Pray: No great work for God, and through God, and to God’s glory can be accomplished without deep, abiding unity of spirit and purpose, such as Moses enjoyed with Aaron. Ask the Lord to preserve this spiritual unity within your church body, and among your church leaders, using hymn # 356’s rendition of Psalm 133:
|How beautiful the sight
Of brethren who agree
In friendship to unite,
And bonds of charity;
’Tis like the precious ointment, shed
O’er all his robes, from Aaron’s head.
’Tis like the dews that fill
|For there the Lord commands
Blessings, a boundless store,
From His unsparing hands,
Yea, life forevermore;
Thrice happy they who meet above
To spend eternity in love!
Friday: read Exodus 4:30-5:2 and Malachi 2:4-6. We notice that it is Aaron who speaks for Moses, with convincing words announcing redemption and convincing signs to prove that this message of good news in Exodus 4:30 was indeed from the Living God. Aaron, after all, would be the founder of the priesthood of Levi, which God designed throughout the Old Testament to be the source of “true instruction… turning many from sin” (Malachi 2:6). In speaking for Moses, we see Aaron effectively anticipate this commission as he speaks to the heart of God’s people, moving them to embrace the truth of Moses’ message and bow in worship in Exodus 4:31. In a nutshell, it was only because God sent a persuasive messenger, who would also be High Priest, named Aaron, that God’s people were moved in faith to worship the LORD as their Redeemer. Isn’t it just the same way in our redemption from sin and Satan’s grasp in our day? It is only because Jesus Christ as our High Priest intercedes effectively to God the Father for us, and speaks persuasive words of invitation, salvation and restoration to us when we sin, that we are rescued continually from “the coming wrath” (see 1 Thessalonians 1:10) and spared repeatedly what our sins deserve.
Meditate and Pray: Let us conclude this week worshipping Jesus our High Priest, who so confidently prays for us to be “sanctified by the Truth” (John 17:17), because He knows how to make the Truth attractive and powerfully persuasive. After all, it is His Holy Spirit who is able, according to our Westminster Shorter Catechism Question # 31, to… persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel. Ask the Lord Jesus, your High Priest, to conduct this winsome, persuasive ministry in your life and the lives of your loved ones with the words of hymn # 305:
|Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.
He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
|Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”
My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;